The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Tag: shades valley community church

The Mundane is Miraculous

*Tonight at our annual SVCC family meeting, I briefly reflected on many things that happened among our faith family during 2014. Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.

Dear Faith Family of SVCC,

This is the third time I have had the opportunity to reflect on what all has transpired among us over the course of a year. I find myself wondering if such reflection will ever feel routine, as each year is so distinct. 2014 brought it’s own host of new ways in which we experienced God’s grace. Truly his mercies are new morning by morning, month by month, and I feel like I can now say, year by year.

I do not mean to make it sound like 2014 was just a fantastical adventure of epic proportions. In many ways it was quite normal, and in others, quite exceptional. 10404118_10101746995414538_9088730644187524869_nMy family experienced some of the most difficult days we’ve ever known last spring. Then, by winter we had seen God’s faithfulness unfold more beautifully than ever before. And yet, scattered throughout these crazy highs and lows were mostly normal, mundane days filled with changing diapers, homeschooling, cooking meals, working, talking, offending, forgiving… you know… just walking through life.

Last year held both the miraculous and the mundane for my family… and I feel like it was the same for us as a faith family. Through 2014 we saw God miraculously give sight to the physically blind and the spiritually blind. We got to see some new brothers and sisters become a part of the body of Christ and we worshipped as nine went through the baptismal waters. God continued to bless us with new families, singles and just a couple of college students. We had to buy new chairs and Student Life donated some on top of that! One of our kid’s classes outgrew their room and had to move. A new community group and men’s fellowship began this year and we even survived having five interns. Truly, God has worked in miraculous ways among us.

IMG_8207Yet, it is also crucial for us to see how the Lord has worked through the “mundane.” Last January, when Snowpocalypse struck, I watched many of you open your homes to each other, even to complete strangers. You needed no recognition, but simply served those in need. This servant like heart has not just been evident during random Birmingham blizzards, but I’ve seen it week to week through your faithful service to one another. So many of you are faithful in the ministries to which the Lord has called you… women’s and men’s ministry, prayer, farmer’s market, community exchange, finance, hospitality, decorators, worship, facilities, and on and on the list goes.

And, your not just faithful within these walls, but wherever the Lord has called you. I often am asked what Shades does to minister in our city. Through these kinds of questions, I feel like people are looking for miraculous testimonies of “big things” done by an organization. I tell them that I don’t have those kinds of stories to share. What I have is much more mundane. If you want to know what Shades does, then I have to tell you stories about people… because Shades is people.

I tell stories about families going through adoption classes in hopes of bringing home children who have no home… stories of people who have designed city-wide events to connect with others in their profession who don’t know Christ. I talk about college students who have consistently, graciously shared the Gospel with their exchange-student roommates. I speak of people who share weekly meals with the Birmingham houseless community… of people fighting sex trafficking, others ministering to nomads, and some who are foster parents. I talk about how I’ve seen people pour into one another’s lives over coffee or give counsel around their kitchen counter… or how I’ve seen brothers and sisters in the faith hold each other through tears and joys…through deaths, weddings, and births.

IMG_1014This is just the tip of the iceberg of what “Shades” does, because Shades is made up of a couple hundred missionaries who come together week after week to pray, love, support, disciple one another, and then go into various sectors of our city and minister in all sorts of ways.

All this happens through the mundane. Through normal people, empowered by the Holy Spirit, daily living out their faith. It’s not flashy. It’s simple-faithfulness. And, in truth, it’s not mundane… it is actually miraculous. If I have learned anything in my time at Shades… it is that the mundane is precisely where our God loves to work his miraculous power so that it is obviously his work. He gets the glory and we get the joy!

After three years of living life as part of this community, I find myself still desiring to enter into the mundane alongside of you, equipped with the miraculous Gospel. You are my family, and week after week I’m so thankful that it is with you I get to go into the world in peace, having courage, holding on to what is good, honoring all men, strengthening the faint-hearted, supporting the weak, helping the suffering, and sharing the Gospel. I get to watch you all love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. We get to see the grace of our lord Jesus Christ make every “mundane” moment miraculous. And to that my heart says, along with all God’s people, amen and amen!

I love you all,



Dear Faith Family of SVCC

*Today, at our annual family meeting, I breifly reflected on many things that happened among our SVCC faith family during 2013.  Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.

Dear Faith Family of SVCC,

_DSC0152It is difficult to express everything that I feel in my heart about 2013. I think the greatest analogy that comes to mind is that of childbirth…after all, my third little one, Talitha, entered the world this past year. Through that miracle of life I have found myself reflecting again and again on the joy that comes through pain.

Perhaps that is the best way I can describe 2013…it has been a year of joy amidst pain. In our own home we experienced quite a scare through the birth of Talitha as Holly dealt with some serious after-effects of the birth. Our daughter Charis was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and our parenting challenges seem new every morning. My brother and his bride moved overseas. And there are various other challenges I will not mention…I do not want this to sound like a list of complaints. It is not.

Amidst all the pain, and I know many of you have endured much greater this year, we have seen the faithfulness of God again and again. He never left us as Holly struggled through birth complications, He is ever present in our parenting and Charis is a constant reminder of his grace, and I praise him daily that my brother and sister-in-law have followed his leading to take the gospel wherever he leads. Without fail, there is joy amidst pain for he is amidst the pain!

IMG_2232At SVCC this year we have experienced pain. I have sat with some of you before surgeries or beside hospital beds and prayed. Some of you have seen loved ones make the transition from this life to the next. There are some which have been hurt by those who they trusted. Many of you have allowed me to see and know you amidst your pain and you have shared in mine…and it has been beautiful for I have seen your joy.

Even when some have felt like there was no joy to be found, I have watched others gather around them and pray for them, fight for them, hold on to them. There have been relationships healed, children born, adoptions granted…both physical and spiritual. We have seen many come to Christ, be baptized and grow in him. Amidst all the pain there has been extreme joy because Jesus is always amidst our pain!

IMG_2233Of course there have been some practical, external things that we are thankful for in 2013. We’ve partnered with Common Thread Community to open a studio, there are nearly 50 musicians involved in the worship ministry, and John-Mark joined us as our worship leader. The women’s ministry had their largest retreat, there are college students coming out our ears, we’re setting up chairs fairly regularly, and there are two new community groups. The youth have grown, I have parents sending me Facebook messages like this, “Is youth group happening tonight…I just need to check because it is my daughter’s favorite part of her week.” The children’s ministry is the same, especially with interact, this past fall we saw our kids really engage through prayer (evidenced by the prayer walls).  We’ve also prayed over Ashford Taylor as she heads to Spain, Carley O’Neal to Australia, and Emily Echevarria to India. All of these things are awesome…massive blessings…but they are only happening by the grace of God!

Any success here is not in how large retreats are or how many chairs we set out…we do not boast in numbers (that’s why we don’t really count them), we do not boast in anything but Jesus…and the only reason I list all of those things is to say…Jesus is at work.  Amidst pain, through pain, we see him at work and we rejoice!

Nothing has increased my faith more this year than seeing you praise amidst pain. I’m not trying to make it sound like this year has been all pain…it hasn’t, but many times you can hear from a church leader and it just sounds like life is totally awesome all the time and that’s not reality. We have had pain this year, but you have praised amidst it all and that shows the world the glory of Jesus unlike anything else!

Praise amidst pain magnifies the majesty of Jesus!

Let’s keep magnifying Jesus! No matter what comes our way in 2014! No matter if the year is awesome or awful, let us be full of awe! No matter if it feels like we are being showered with blessings or if it feels like we are being beaten down by a deluge of suffering…Jesus is with us amidst any storm and he can walk on any amount of water!  Let’s trust him and praise him and make him known to the nations.

I love you all. May his grace be with us,



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